The word ‘Pat’ means ‘piece of cloth’ in Sanskrit. Those who painted on these pats are known as Patuas or Patidars. The Patuas of west Bengal live in the outlaying districts of Medinipur, Birbhum, Purulia, Budwan, Mushidabad, Nadia, Howrah, Hugli and 24 Parghanas. Traditionally their main source of livelihood is based on painting and story telling. Earlier, they moved from house to house performing and telling their stories through paintings and also received a small fee in kind or in cash.
The pats or scrolls narrate both Hindu mythologies and stories of Muslim pirs. There are also larger social, political and secular themes, which are portrayed. It is very interesting to look at the range of themes in the pats. With colonization new themes came up, which were political in nature such as redistribution of land. In recent years, with the intervention of NGOs and individuals engaged in reviving the art form, there has been an upsurge of many other new themes such as- the death of Mother Teresa, HIV prevention, the 9/11 disaster, Gujarat earthquake etc.
Patua art has always been dynamic, constantly changing and adapting to meet the need and interests of audiences. These changes occur due to crisis faced by the Patuas or even due to the changing society or economy itself. It is said that urbanization and advent of other forms of entertainment have swallowed the traditional audience.
The Patuas of Naya were nothing more than an artisan community for me, before I set foot in the small village of West Bengal. I had read about them on the internet and in some books. I ha...
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